October 30, 2012


It is nice to hear that the Cubs front office has a needs assessment chart for all the other 29 teams in MLB. The charts are supposed to help pinpoint potential trade partners who are looking to fill holes in their roster. Apparently, GM Jed Hoyer finds that everyone is still looking for pitching which is now in short supply.

But what is the Cubs needs assessment?

If the season starts today, the Cubs depth chart looks extremely weak:

OF: Soriano, DeJesus, LaHair
IN: Valbuena, Castro, Barney, Rizzo
C: W. Castillo
SP: Samardzija, Rusin, T. Wood
Bullpen: Marmol, Russell, L. Castillo, Bowden, Cabrera, Chapman, Dolis.
Bench: B. Jackson, Campana, Sappelt, Clevenger

That is only 22 players on the current depth chart.
And of those 22 players, at least 9 will not make the April, 2013 roster.

A reality check shows the Cubs depth chart as follows:

OF: Soriano, DeJesus, LaHair
IN: Valbuena, Castro, Barney, Rizzo
C: W. Castillo
SP: Samardzija, T. Wood, Garza (DL)
Bullpen: Marmol, Russell,

The Cubs have already signaled that B. Jackson will go back to AAA. Campana or Sappelt are not great outfield defenders or great bench hitters. They are limited speed guys. LaHair is the marginal right fielder by default; again, waiting to be benched until Soler is promoted (which may not happen in 2013). If W. Castillo is the new Cub catcher, Clevenger will probably not be back. He sort of wore out his welcome when his bat cooled and took pride at throwing at an opponent late in the season.

Rusin, L. Castillo, Bowden, Cabrera, Chapman and Dolis are all destined for minor league seasoning; slow cooking style.

And Valbuena as your every day third baseman is a tenuous solution.

In reality, every single position on the current Cubs roster is in need of an upgrade. 

So to prioritize the NEEDS of the 2013 Cubs:

8. MIDDLE RELIEVER (7th inning)

Filling those needs is another question. Even finding a third baseman, like Ian Stewart last year, is fraught with peril. There is little doubt that these needs are not going to be filled within the Cubs organization. The free agent market is thin this off season. Teams will overpay for the top tier one or two players at each position. But the Cubs mindset is not going the top free agent route: they want to cherry pick the second tier to find a gold nugget in the drudge of lower team cast-offs. The Cubs picked up Maholm from the obscurity of the Pirates cave, only to flip him for an injured young starter. But people now know the Cubs free agent rental plan. Some free agents may shy away from signing with the Cubs because they don't want to be uprooted after only three months in Chicago. Some teams will no longer give up prized pitching prospects for a rent-a-player on a trade deadline deal.

The idea that the Cubs blueprint for future success is solely based upon "rebuilding" the minor league system, then relying on home grown talent to win, is a fallacy. It is an excuse of a big market club NOT to spend money to field a competitive team. You can build a winner with a combination of free agent signing and good amateur drafts. The Cubs mantra on the latter is a means of saving cash and buying time.

The Cubs could go out and spend like a mad sailor for Youkilis, Josh Hamilton, Pierzynski and Greinke to fill/upgrade four positions. But would that make the Cubs even a .500 club? Probably not. Waiting three or four years for Almora, Soler, Concepcion and Vizcaino to hit their stride will make the Cubs a .500 club? Probably not, as the vast majority of prospects do not pan out.

The needs of the Cubs are not the same needs of the fans, who want a competitive team now.


When scouting services and writers begin their winter reports on the free agent market, they will gravitate toward the big names like Josh Hamilton or Zach Greinke.

But probably the most valuable free agent on the market is White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
AJ had another excellent season. He hit .278, 27 HR, 77 RBI.  He has a career fielding percentage of .995.  He calls an excellent game; he makes the pitching staff better. He also is like having a second manager on the field. He has one of the strongest baseball IQs in the game.

He is nearing the end of his career. At age 35, he had a very good season with the White Sox. He will probably be looking for a two or three year contract. He made $8 million last season; he could get a hefty raise since power hitting, good fielding catchers are so RARE in major league baseball.

If the Rangers cannot re-sign Mike Napoli, Pierzynski would be a massive upgrade from Geo Soto. The Rangers have the money to spend to shore up their team for another play off run. Depending on how hurt Tigers catcher Alex Avila is, Detroit is another possible suitor. The Braves Brian McCann just had shoulder surgery. He will be out for probably most of 2013. Atlanta is another contender in need of a quality catcher.

So Pierzynski is the most "valuable" free agent on the market this off season for a contender based upon his position and his leadership qualities.

October 29, 2012


From the Cubs website:

CHICAGO -- The Cubs tweaked the 40-man roster on Friday when they outrighted four players to Triple-A Iowa, including outfielder Joe Mather. Pitcher Chris Volstad also was claimed off waivers by the Royals. 

The Cubs had acquired Volstad from the Marlins for Carlos Zambrano in January, and the right-hander opened the season in the rotation but went 0-7 with a 7.94 ERA in nine starts before he was optioned to Iowa. Volstad rejoined the Cubs Aug. 1, finished 3-5 with a 5.18 ERA in his final 12 starts, and was 3-12 with a 6.31 ERA for the season. 

He ended a 24-start winless streak on Aug. 26 with a win over the Rockies, his first win since July 10, 2011. 

The Cubs front office had made it clear they were in the market for two starting pitchers and that Volstad was not projected as part of the 2013 rotation. 

Besides Mather, right-handers Manuel Corpas, Justin Germano and Blake Parker were outrighted to Triple-A Iowa. Mather, who started in all three outfield spots and third base, batted .209 in 103 games with the Cubs. 

Corpas, who was coming back from Tommy John surgery, which he had in September 2010, was 0-2 with a 5.01 ERA in 48 games. Corpas has elected free agency. 

Germano, acquired from the Red Sox July 19 for cash considerations, went 2-10 with a 6.75 ERA in 13 games (12 starts). Parker spent most of the season on the disabled list with an elbow injury, appearing in just seven games. 

On Thursday, the Cubs outrighted infielder Adrian Cardenas and right-handed pitchers Miguel Socolovich, Jason Berken and Marcos Mateo were assigned outright to Iowa. Catcher Anthony Recker also was claimed off waivers by the Mets. 

The Cubs' 40-man roster is now at 33. 

 The Rule 5 draft at the Winter meetings will be held in December. Those players signed under age 18 with 5 years of minor league experience and players signed over 18 with 4 years of minor league experience are subject to being selected by other clubs for their major league rosters. A team can protect those prospects by putting them on their 40 man roster.

Last season, the Cubs selected pitcher Lendy Castillo from the Phils. Castillo was on the Cubs roster for the entire season, abet most of it on the disabled list. As a result, Castillo is formally an unconditional Cub, and can be sent to the minors without clearing waivers. Castillo was a bust at the major league level, which may hurt the 23 year old's development.

These early moves indicate that management had no 2013 plans for Mather, Volstad, Corpas, Germano, Parker, Cardenas, Socolovich, Berken, Mateo or Recker. Look at their roles: fifth outfield reserve, bad #5 starter, bad middle reliever, bad spot starter, injured middle reliever, bench player, middle reliever, spot starter, injured middle reliever and journeyman catcher. None of these guys are building blocks for the future.

The Cubs have 7 open spaces on their 40 man roster. The Cubs could promote 4 prospects to the protective list, or keep the openings for Rule 5 selections or future trades. Three spaces will be filled by players currently on the disabled list: Matt Garza, Ian Stewart, and Arodys Vizcaino.

The Cub Reporters lists the names of current Cub prospects who would be eligible to be drafted by other clubs:

Jeffry Antigua, LHP
Frank Batista, RHP
Justin Bour, 1B
Michael Brenly, C
Michael Burgess, OF
David Cales, RHP
Esmailin Caridad, RHP
Marcelo Carreno, RHP
Matt Cerda, INF
Hunter Cervenka, LHP
Evan Crawford, OF
Willengton Cruz, LHP
Antonio Encarnacion, RHP
Eduardo Figueroa, RHP
Marcus Hatley, RHP
Ty’Relle Harris, RHP
Jay Jackson, RHP
Alvido Jimenez, RHP
Austin Kirk, LHP
Luis Liria, RHP
Jeff Lorick, LHP
Nate Maldonado, C (player-coach)
Trey McNutt, RHP
Pedro Medina, RHP (ex-OF)
Jose Montesino, INF
A. J. Morris, RHP
Enyelberth Pena, RHP
Felix Pena, RHP
Starling Peralta, RHP
Nelson Perez, OF
Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP
Rebel Ridling, 1B-OF
Greg Rohan, IF-OF
Jose Rosario, RHP
Zac Rosscup, LHP
Julio Sanchez, RHP
Brian Schlitter, RHP
Ryan Searle, RHP
Matt Spencer, LHP (ex-OF)
Nick Struck, RHP
Larry Suarez, RHP
Francisco Turbi, RHP
Christian Villanueva, 3B
Brett Wallach, RHP
Logan Watkins, INF
Casey Weathers, RHP
Rob Whitenack, RHP
Ty Wright, OF

Of this list, two players have direct ties to the current Epstein-Hoyer regime: Villanueva and Weathers (both acquired by trades). One could expect the Cubs could protect both of them on principle.  Rosscup is the last chip from the Garza trade, but has not done much in the minors. The list of pitching prospects does not light any fear that they will be chosen; none really appear to be major league (full season) contributors for any club. With Bob Brenly gone from the booth, there is no sentimental attachment to protect his son.

October 26, 2012


Former Indians general manager and current team president Mark Shapiro said in a recent interview that the cost of a free agent "win" is approximately $9 million.  In essence, for every additional win over replacement (WAR) in the free agent market costs a team $9 million in salary.  He stated that for a team below .500, adding one win via a $9 million free agent is not necessarily prudent allocation of resources. However, for an 89 win team, the 90th win may be extremely important (such as winning a division and avoiding a wild card play off game).

The $9 million seems to be a perplexing value. Is it really true? It is hard to say. It may be one team's budgeting criteria for 2013.

If you look at all of major league player salaries at the start of 2012, $2.903 billion, and divide them by the number of season "wins" you get a value of $1.2 million per win. That is the base line value of a major league win by any team.

The Indians' $9 million free agent per win value is 6.5 times more than the base line win value.

Which begs this question: are free agents worth 6.5 times more than a normal position player?

Given most free agents being paid $9 million or more per season are "above average" or "quality" starters, one would expect they would have a greater winning impact on a team than the average AAAA replacement player.

Let us analyze a random but important free agent position: first base.

There were 48 first basemen in the leagues with total salary of $411.912 million. The average first baseman salary would be $8.58 million. However, the mean 24th paid first baseman was only at $1.0 million.

Albert Pujols left the Cardinals in 2012. In 2011, he made $14.58 million. With his Angels deal, the 10 year $240 million contract prorates to $24 million per year.  That is an approximate $9.5 million increase in free agent "value." Under the Indians' reasoning, the Angels should receive at least +1.0 WAR from Pujols signing.

In 2011, Pujols season WAR was 5.1.
In 2012, Pujols season WAR was 4.6.  That is a minus .5 WAR.

So under one interpretation, Pujols failed the Indians free agent value test.

But if you look to the Angels team, Pujols replaced Mark Trumbo at first base. Trumbo had a very good rookie season, finishing second in the AL Rookie of the Year honors. Trumbo's 2011 WAR was 2.5. His rookie salary was a mere $414,000.

Pujols increased the Angels first base WAR by 2.1.  Under the Indians valuation, that would equate to $18.9 million in free agent win value. Pujols was paid $24 million, so some could say he was overpaid by $5.1 million, but which is substantially less than the average first base salary of $8.58 million.

What the figures really show is the inflation vs. efficiency of home grown talent.
Trumbo's 2011 season equals $165,000/1.0 WAR.
Pujols' 2012 season equals $5,200,000/1.0 WAR.

The final question is whether Pujols' 2.1 additional wins over Trumbo's 2011 season give the Angels two more wins in the standings - - - or a play-off berth?  No.
The 2012 Angels did improve by 3 games, but finished 3rd in the division.

And ironically, the best Angel of 2012 was another rookie, Mike Trout, who had an amazing 10.7 WAR.

October 23, 2012


When Mike Matheny was announced to replace Tony LaRussa as the St. Louis Cardinals manager, some eyebrows were raised. Matheny had no managerial experience at any level. He was the opposite of LaRussa, who micromanaged games and rosters, to the point of a "genius" label by some pundits.

When Robin Ventura was announced to replace Ozzie Guillen as the Chicago White Sox manager, some eyebrows were raised. Ventura had no managerial experience at any level. He was the opposite of the temperamental Guillen, who had clashes with GM Kenny Williams. But Guillen had gotten the White Sox a championship, but had worn out his welcome. Ventura was supposed to put a calm face on the White Sox.

So when the Colorado Rockies beat writers tell that current player Jason Giambi is a "real" candidate to become the next Rox manager, some eyebrows will be raised. Giambi admitted using steroids and PEDs. However, since he came clean early and was apologetic, he normally gets a pass from the fans and the league. The other issue is that Giambi has no managerial experience at any level. He played on the team that underperformed in a small market situation. The question is can he turn from player and teammate to manager - tough guy when the going gets rough.

But there is a clear pattern emerging in major league baseball circles.

It is now acceptable to hire managers without any managerial experience.

It seems to be a contradiction. In the normal business world, you don't hire a green horn kid and
give him the keys to the factory and expect any kind of results. The one thing former players have in common is the MLB experience. But just playing the game does not mean one is good at leading a team.

Matheny and Ventura exceeded expectations in their first years as managers. Those results will probably trigger more non-experience hires.  It provides the front office with two critical positives: lower salary for an inexperienced manager and control. General managers will have more influence over a green first year manager than an experienced old school general. And management control is becoming more prevalent in all sports. Baseball has just taken it to another level.

October 22, 2012


If major league baseball does not like the concept of trading managers or management personnel for players, it has not stopped the wave of changes in the last two seasons.

The Blue Jays have "traded" manager John Farrell to the Red Sox for 31 year old utility infielder Mike Aviles. Aviles hit .250, 13 HR, 60 RBI for Boston in 2012. Aviles projects to be a solid bench player in 2013.

Farrell goes back to Boston where he inherits a boat load of player dissension and bad play. After Terry Francona September 2011 team meltdown, the Red Sox pulled in a hard nose, old school manager in Bobby Valentine, who was burned at the stake by the players, media and eventually Red Sox management.

The Blue Jays struggled at times under Farrell. Farrell was the hot candidate a few years back. Apparently, the Blue Jay management questioned the team's lack of on-field discipline during the 2012 season as a possible reason for allowing Farrell to leave the team. Another reason may have been giving Farrell a multi-year extension, when the Blue Jays have not performed well under his leadership.

Baseball managers, statistically, may directly influence 3 to 5 games a season. Great managers seem to get the most "intangibles" out of their rosters on a daily basis. Good managers seem to keep a team on an even keel and usually wind up at .500. Bad managers compound their team's weaknesses and usually do not stay around long enough to right the ship.

Farrell goes to a team, the Red Sox, that used to have the resources to buy free agents and push for the playoffs. The Red Sox traded away $250 million in contract obligations to the Dodgers. There is no indication that the Red Sox will turn around and spend that money in free agency this off season. Farrell may be stuck with the same roster as Valentine.

October 19, 2012


Yankees GM Brian Cashman is in a pickle. The Yankees got got swept by the Tigers for a World Series berth. It leaves New York in an ugly mood with an expensive and rapidly aging team.

"I don't care if it's old; I care if it is good," Cashman said after the series on the state of his team.

But age does matter. Performance tends to diminish the older a player gets; it is the natural slowing down of hand and eye coordination.

The weak post season performances by Alex Rodruiguez, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson may be symptoms of growing problem. Derek Jeter's fragile body broke down during the playoffs. Ichiro Suzuki is at the end of his career when the Mariners let him go. And if fans are waiting on the edge of their seats for Andy Pettitte's decision whether he will return in 2013, there is a more serious problem at work in the Bronx.

The big spending, marquee free agent blueprint works for a team like the Yankees who have the financial resources to bury its mistakes. A $200 million plus payroll is not a problem when the Yankees cable network brings in $1 billion.  But the team is stuck with massive contracts like A-Rod's which cannot be moved to another team. And the indications are that A-Rod won't waive his trade clause. That could mean that A-Rod may be the highest paid bench player in MLB history if he does not work his way out of the Girardi dog house.

The Yankees do not have a young corps of players on its roster. The youngest player was utility infielder Educardo Nunez, 25, who was born June 15, 1987. Sixteen players of their final 25 man roster were over age 30; that is 64 percent of the team.

It will be a major crossroads this off season for the Yankees. The major underperformance by its star players in the playoffs will lead the calls for drastic change.

October 18, 2012


In the framework of the Cubs picking up second tier free agent pitchers then flipping them for prospects at the trade deadline like with Paul Maholm, the name that pops to the top of the list is John Lannan of the Nationals.

Lannan will be non-tendered this offseason, because he spent most of his time in AAA.  Lannan earned $5MM in 2012. 

Lannan, 28, has 6 major league seasons under his belt. His career record is 42-52, 4.01 ERA, 783.2 IP, 1.424 WHIP, 1.39 K/BB ratio. Last season, he made six starts with a record of 4-1, 4.13 ERA, 32.2 IP, 1.439 WHIP, 1.21 K/BB ratio.  When you sign him, you know what you are getting - - - a #4/5 starter with experience.

The only downside to this plan is that the Nationals prize starting pitching; a left handed experienced starter is a hard asset to find in the open market. Plus, if the Nationals do not re-sign Edwin Jackson, Lannan could be the top candidate to replace him in the 2013 rotation.  One would expect Lannan to re-sign with the Nationals, a contender, then sign with the Cubs, a pretender.

October 16, 2012


The Cubs appear to have locked the second overall selection in the June 2013 draft. The Astros pick first. It is uncertain who at this point the Astros, now in the AL West, will choose. The scouting services will probably retain pitcher Mark Appel, who did not sign this year, to be the number one draft prospect.

But the choice the Cubs must make is simple. The most glaring long term need is at third base. The Cubs should select San Diego junior Kris Bryant. Scouts are impressed by his patience, batting and power ratings, which top the charts. He hit 14 HRs, 57 RBIs, batted .366, .483 OBP and 9 SB. He projects as a long term power hitting corner (third base or RF).

Other third base prospects include North Carolina junior Colin Moran (3 HR 35 RBI .365 BA .434 OBP) and Virginia Tech junior Chad Pinder (7 HR, 37 RBI, .325 BA, .380 OBP, 6 SB).

The reason for drafting a college third baseman is critical. The obnoxious philosophy of a player needing 500 AB at AAA is an artificial boundary which limits the options at the major league club level. A college third baseman has many more quality at-bats than high schoolers, who will wind up in the rookie league.  Bryant could start in AAA in 2013.  If Josh Vitters cannot bounce back from his weak debut, then there is a player in Bryant that can compete for the job right away.

The Cubs lack power in the infield and players who can consistently drive in runs. Bryant fills the long term need at third base.

October 8, 2012


Gordon Wittenmyer, the Chicago Sun-Times baseball writer, opines that the Cubs, after losing 101 games, need to sign at least tow or three free agent starting pitchers in order just to be competitive in 2013. Competitive in the meaning of "not embarrassing."

Wittenmyer rightly believes that the Cubs will not make a play for big money marquee starters like Zack Greinke or Jake Peavy. The plan appears to be to sign second tier, cheaper middle of the rotation starters and "flip" them for prospects at the trade deadline like the Cubs did with Maholm.

The Cubs plan to sign pitchers in the under $10 million tier, preferably those nearer the $5 million mark. That would probably take out Edwin Jackson, at 29, the journeyman's journeyman starter who will be asking for big money this off season after being on a playoff team roster.

Wittenmyer speculates that the Cubs could eye a Shaun Marcum or a Anibel Sanchez as potential free agent acquisitions. Marcum is a solid #2-#3 starter for the Blue Jays and the Brewers. He would be a hard sign at this stage of his career. Sanchez may be a better target, but has less up side in the prospect flipping department. Another option would be another Pirate starter out of favor, Kevin Correira, 33, who went 12-11 with a 4.21 ERA.

 There may be a lot of "second tier" starters but all have performance baggage, like Francisco Liriano (age 29), Carlos Villanueva (29), Chris Young (34), Carlos Zambrano (32), Jason Marquis (34), the latter two being former Cubs. It is unclear whether any candidate on this list could have a big enough turnaround season to be traded next July.

The concept of renting a pitcher for a half season to get more low prospects to fill up Class A ball would be fine if your were running a small market team like Kansas City or Tampa. But the Cubs are near the top in ticket prices and revenue in the third biggest market in the nation.

October 4, 2012


You need to get on your hip waders in order to get through this pile of manure.

Paul Sullivan of the Tribune writes this afternoon on the Theo Epstein post-season discussion, with emphasis on what the Cubs will be doing for their fan base. Apparently, very little.

Sullivan's Epstein quotes on his assessment of the season and the future:

"(The Cubs ) buried ourselves right out of the chute and didn’t have the talent to overcome that.”

It’s Epstein’s job to complete what he called a “comprehensive overhaul of the baseball organization.”

Epstein said the Cubs have a “covenant” with the fans and that the 2.8 million in attendance for a 101-loss team is proof they’re “buying in” to the plan.

“They’re (the fans) a part of that covenant, so we have to reward them ultimately,” he said, adding "patience" is required.

“I think the experience at Wrigley is pretty great,” he said. “If we stay committed to that vision and we’re going places and we put a team on the field that plays really hard, the experience of coming to Wrigley is pretty special, it’s unique, it’s hard to replicate. I think that has something to do with the ticket prices."

Epstein said that the business operations department, led by business president Crane Kenney, is trying to "give them more value for what they are spending” at Wrigley.

“There’s no getting around the fact that as far as the ultimate return on investment for the fans’ dollar, which is seeing a winning team, they going to get better value down the road than they’re getting right now,” he said. “It’s our job to make sure the debt value, and experience of watching a baseball team down the stretch and into October and celebrating with that team is priceless, and that’s ultimately how we can reward the fans’ support.”

“I’m not going to sit here and say, 'Don’t worry about 101 losses because we have a magic plan to win the World Series in 2013, (that) it’s gonna happen, so be there now,’” he said. “That’s not the case. There is a plan, there is a vision. It might be a little bit longer turn than we all want it to be, but that we’re committed to it and that there is a great reward at the end.”

“We owe the fans a tremendous amount of hard work to get there,” he said, adding: “Maybe we’ll get there a year earlier if we work harder than our competition.”

SO LET US REVIEW what Epstein is saying to fans the day after a 101-loss campaign.
1. The Cubs had a brutal start to the season, and did not have the "talent" to overcome a slow start.
Isn't it the job of the club president and general manager to assemble the best roster available, and then when there are issues during the season (performance or injury), be able to adapt quickly to fill holes in the roster?  Didn't Epstein and Hoyer fail in this job duty to fans? (See, previous post on the Oakland A's overcoming adversity and budget restrictions to win the AL West.)
2. Epstein needs to complete a total overhaul of the baseball organization.
That means purging the old Jim Hendry-Tribune staff members in the baseball operations and hiring and promoting his own loyal employees in a means to consolidate power and influence over the club. The problem is that he has had a year to cull the deadwood from the organizational staff ranks, but decided to keep the status quo for most of the season. It seems like an excuse on the management side of the equation. On the player development side, it is clear that the AAA prospects under the old front office did not have major league talent, including the touted ones Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson. But Epstein made the conscious decision not to re-populate the system with "near ready" college juniors or seniors but instead went on low level, higher risk Class A players, including his international signees Concepcion and Soler. Epstein is trying to buy three more years of time for his choices to pan out in the minor leagues.

3. The Cubs have a "covenant" with the fans. A covenant is a legal contract, and the theological sense, it is a commitment to higher authority. Epstein is telling the fans that they have a "duty" to continue to be paying customers, and quells the concerns of high ticket prices for season ticket holders (the bulk of this year's attendance numbers) by claiming that fans "have bought in" to the rebuilding process. No, the fans did not. Many fans purchased this year's tickets before Theo was hired; at the hiring press conference, Ricketts told fans that the team would continue to be competitive, and refused to acknowledge that any rebuilding would occur. So the fans upheld their part of the bargain, but Epstein dodges the admission that the fans did not receive a major league product from the team.

4. At "some point," the Cubs have to reward their fans, Epstein said. But he kicked that can down the road and over a cliff. He won't acknowledge that the ticket prices should be decreased to match the play on the field. Instead, he says that the fans should be happy with the Wrigley experience. Then he punts the cost issue to his co-president in the business department to figure out how to give "fans more value" for their dollar. Fans are not looking to get more sideshows, more beer stations or more points of sale in the concourses - - - fans want a better team: wins, playoffs, championships.

5. Epstein says there is no "magic pill" to turn around the Cubs. That should put a shiver down the spine of season ticket holders who need to decide quickly whether $7,500 plus per seat is worth it for another long losing 2013 season. Epstein stresses that fans need to be "patient," but after 104 years and $130 million payrolls, management needs to get "results." Epstein is twisting management's "vision" and time line to place an additional burden on the alleged "dutie" of fans to continue to support the franchise by buying expensive tickets, beer and souvenirs.

6. Epstein never gives fans a "great reward" date. Is it 2014? 2015? 2016? 2017? 2020?? It is because he does not know himself. He wants to deflect the any criticism of the past season as being "new" to the job, and having to sort through the accumulated problems of the past regime. But he will now have to answer to the fans based upon his record as leader of the baseball team. Is he a great evaluator of talent? Of all the pick-ups this season, only Rizzo showed real potential. But whether Anthony Rizzo will be the next Joey Votto or Bryan LaHair is yet to be seen. But you can't sell snake oil hope to Cub fans anymore. You need to make objective progress year to year. Under that standard, losing 10 more games than the previous season, is a failure.


Cubs president Theo Epstein will probably address the local media today to recap his first season as Cubs boss.
Epstein was the highly prized and highly compensated hire by owner Tom Ricketts, who thought he was buying "instant success."

The bottom line is the genius came into the job, he had an entire off season to right the ship,
but instead his club was worse - - - 11% worse than 2011. 101 losses is the third worst in franchise history. And the fact that the Cubs struggled in their last season to the 107 loss Houston Astros, the only team ever to go two consecutive seasons with 100 losses, is the black cloud hanging over Wrigley for the next six months.

Compare that to the lowly Oakland A's, who in the off season traded away their two best starting
pitchers and closer, had two more starters go down with injuries, but managed to cut a 13 game
deficit to win the AL West from the Rangers.  GM Billy Beane took a 74 win team in 2011, and transformed them over the off season into a 94 win divisional championship.

Now, some will say that Beane has been on the job for years so his turnaround may have been laid several seasons ago. But not really. Beane has been under huge fiscal constraints in Oakland. He is forced to trade promising young players because of budget restrictions. Oakland has no modern revenue generating machine stadium. Oakland wanted to move to San Jose, but the Giants blocked it. Clearly, Epstein has much more flexibility in salary and in free agency than Beane does in Oakland.

So there can not be any excuses given by Epstein in his state of the Cubs speech. The Cubs are awful. The players played bad. There was little sign of improvement. Most of the moves made by the new front office did not pan out.

Epstein may cite his "good" pick ups in the Rizzo trade, the signing of DeJesus and Maholm and the pick up of middle reliever Camp, for whom the Mariners cut but manager Sveum called the team's MVP. Middle relievers are not team MVPs.  Rizzo appears to be the real deal, but so did LaHair in the first half of 2012. DeJesus may have been a salary "bargain," but he would have never started on any other team. Maholm was a professional starter and his trade for a prospect may pan out as a good rent-a-player move. But Sean Marshall was still better than T. Wood and Sappelt in trade value.

But Epstein cannot run away from his "bad" moves: the Colvin and LeMathieu trade for Ian Stewart was a huge disaster; Rodrigo Lopez was journeyman poor; pick ups Teveer Miller and Jeff Bianchi were cut; Kerry Wood forgot how to pitch; Cardenas off waivers from Oakland could not displace Barney at second; De La Cruz was MIA; Bowden did not impress; Valbuena is not the answer at third base; Volstad as a starter was worse than Zambrano as a madman; in season acquisitions Chapman, Berken, and Germano were consistently inconsistently bad; claimer Socolovich was a non factor; Hinshaw was terrible; Mather was a below Mendoza line bench player, and Lenny Castillo was the injured Rule 5 player who took up a roster spot for little to zero return.

October 2, 2012


On a night in Chicago when vast majority of the city was watching the Bears easily handle the poor Cowboys on Monday Night Football, the Cubs set off on a mission. For a week the team and its coaches have put out the simple goal: don't loss 100 games. No player wants to be a part of a 100 loss team.

The final series of the season is against the lowly Astros, the worst team in major league baseball. The Astros are expansion team bad.

So the Cubs had a simple task: win against the worst team in the league.

The Cubs fell like a thud; shut-out 3-0 on two hits.

So much for player pride and team focus. For the third time in franchise history, the Cubs have lost 100 games. Even for a team with the personality of the "Lovable Losers," a 100 loss season is a rare feat of bad.

This means that the new Epstein-Hoyer management will be at least 10 percent worse this season than the last season under Jim Hendry.  The 2011 team lost 91 games. The 2012 team has lost 9 more games, with two to play. Remember, these executives were brought in with big money contracts to turnaround the franchise. Instead, it has crumbled to rock bottom. If the 2011 season was deemed a failure by ownership, then 2012 has to be also considered a failure.

The words are excuses when they will say that the new front office has "started" to rebuild the organization from the low minors up. The rebuilding does not start today. It started almost a year ago, with only one of Epstein's pick ups (Anthony Rizzo) showing any major league promise.

GM Hoyer says the rebuilding process will be slow. Painfully slow it seems if 100 loss seasons are the new normal.

October 1, 2012


The Chicago White Sox clearly exceeded expectations. Many fans will be bitter with the fade at the end, but one must realize that the young pitchers and older veterans just ran out of gas.

What was a reasonable expectation when the Sox let their ace, Buerhle, go to free agency; dismiss their World Series manager  Guillen; hoping that starter Peavey would spend more time on the mound than on the disabled list; and getting almost zero production from third from Morel, who turned into the new Joe Crede.

But this run to the top of the division bodes well for 2013. This team is competitive. It can win the AL Central with a few minor adjustments.  And if they avoid sophomore slumps, the team could be good for years to come.

The Sox current 40 man roster stands as follows:

Starting pitchers: Axelrod, Danks, Floyd, Humber, Liriano, Molina, Peavy, Quintana, Sale. Danks will be coming back from injury, Peavy is a free agent because of his $22 million option so he will be gone, and someone from the Floyd-Humber duo needs to step up to fill out the back of the 2013 rotation. Liriano is a free agent who may not get much interest so he is a choice to come back.

Relief pitchers: Bruney, Carter, Castro, Crain, Heath, Jones, Marinez, Myers, Omogrosso, Reed, Santiago, Septimo, Thorton, Veal. There were so many rookie pitchers on the South Side it is hard to tell whether they met or extended their potential. Clearly, Jones and Reed have proven to be quality arms. Whether veterans like Crain, Myers and Thorton will be around next season depends on how badly GM Kenny Williams wants to tinker with the team.

Catchers: Flowers, Gimenez, Pierzynski.  Pierzynski is a free agent and he would be difficult to replace. The organization likes Flowers, but he has not come up and grabbed the position from A.J. With a young pitching staff, Pierzynski is like a second pitching coach during games - - - an invaluable member of the coaching staff. Of all the free agents, Pierzynski would be a priority to re-sign.

Infielders: Beckham, Dunn, Hudson, D. Johnson, Konerko, Lopez, Morel, Olmedo, Ramirez and Youkilis. Third base will continue to be a question with injured Morel and free agent Youkilis. Hudson and D. Johnson will not be back next season.

Outfielders: J. Danks, De Aza, Rios, Vicideo and Wise.  There is nothing wrong with these five outfielders being on the 2013 opening day roster.

The White Sox end the season with a payroll of around $98 million, which is high for a team that does not draw well. The White Sox have always been organized as a small market team playing in a big city market. The team is already committed to $78.25 million on 8 players.

The White Sox 2013 priorities can be summarized as starting catcher, starting third baseman, #3 starter and middle relievers. It is doubtful that the White Sox have the budget to sign free agents for each need position.

Free agent market will be thin this off season.

Catchers of note include Russell Martin, Mike Napoli, Ronny Paulino, Pierzynski, and Yorvit Torrealba. Martin or Napoli would be a choice, but they will be looking for a long term deal.

Starting third basemen of note include Brandon Inge, Jose Lopez or Scott Rolen, all at the end of their careers.

Starting pitchers of note include Kevin Correia, Zack Greinke, Edwin Jackson, Shaun Marcum, Joe Saunders and Carlos Zambrano. Jackson or Marcum could be possible under the radar selections.

One thing is certain. Kenny Williams takes the cards that he is dealt, and he is willing to reshuffle the deck and gamble on players and prospects. The future looks good for the White Sox.